HPJC Seminar, Slides 09, 10, 11

Feel free to download the whole set of notes from the PDF section of this blog and use them and share them or, if you find fault with any facts or can recommend improvements, please let me know.

Slide 09 – Biological Balance

The ecosystem is a living thing. Like all living things it must be able to maintain balance among all its parts in order to stay alive.

Life, by one definition, is the internal ability to maintain balance among all its parts. Think of your life. If it goes out of balance, for example, if your kidneys are not able to excrete all the wastes of your food, or if you have not enough food to supply your energy needs, your life is lost. That is true of all life.

Similarly, our actions can not succeed if the results of our efforts push the ecosystem farther out of balance instead of helping it to gain its balance.

We can not stop the evolution of new viruses over time or defeat epidemics by building more hospitals.

We can not stop starvation by working to increase the population (even if that is not what we believe ourselves to be doing).

We can not permanently stop a war over resources, and grow a path toward peace, by petitioning anyone when the energy needs of our societies exceed the ability of the planet to provide for them. People need food. They will fight for it.

We can not resolve these problems with energy technologies, because technology is not a resource — it is not energy. It is not food. And even if we could make food, more food would not restore the balance of the ecosystem, which at the moment seems to be having trouble disposing of the waste products of energy we are using (carbon dioxide). Making more energy, if it were possible, would only throw the earth ecosystem more out of balance.

We can not resolve any of these problems using any method of growth because our growth, and our growth ethic, are root causes of all these problems. It’s not possible to solve a problem by doing more of what caused the problem.

We can not change the laws of nature; the only thing that we do have the power to accomplish is to change our own behaviors.

Slide 10 – Economic Balance

Money is not so difficult to understand if we recognize that good money (money that is worth something) represents resources and energy that are part of the earth ecosystem — resources that were taken out of the earth.

There is no difference in our balance diagram if we are talking about the ecology or the economy. The diagram is the same if we are talking about the balance of energy consumption or of greenbacks. We can use the same diagram for gold, and lumber and horses and my life and money. All have been taken from the earth using energy; all must be rebalanced as we try to rebalance the ecosystem. If we can not live within a balanced economy, then we are living within a Ponzi Scheme.


Slide 11 – Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh

With that thought in mind, let’s watch the movie “Ancient Futures” ISEC.org where we will see a perfect example of the social problems that are caused by unbalancing the ecosystem in an effort to keep a Ponzi economy growing within an ecosystem that can not grow any bigger. Particularly note: when the economy and the ecology of Ladakh were in balance:

“Cultural traditions . . . limited population growth and helped to ensure that the natural carrying capacity of the land is not exceeded.”

Then please notice the parallels between the social problems, the unbalancing of the economy and the unbalancing of the ecology. Make a list of the parallels and realize that all of them relate to growth.

Growth is not balance. Whatever is your “action” the root cause of the problem is an unbalanced ecosystem. Please make sure that your “action” is not making the problem worse by unbalancing the ecosystem even more than it already is.

Elm Tree Down

Remember a few days ago I was rejoicing that the elm was burnishing up with little maroon flowers? Well, the little flowers are still there and now are within reach, but they have little future to look forward to. Good job, though, she missed the road. Only about three people use this road, but someone probably would have complained if we blocked it.

The Power of Religion

Even if we don’t care about their Godly beginnings, the religions can give us our best source of human wisdom. Both through the mistakes that have been made in the name of religion, and in the ongoing traditions, the religious injunctions have been tested through the centuries by many people in many cultures.

For example, thou shalt not kill. We know, if we go out and start a war, the result will be a long and awful hatred directed at us by the people whose parents (ancestors) and children we have killed and maimed. If we are honest, we do not blame other people for a hatred that we created, and we know it is wiser to not create it in the first place. So why do we do it? The source of most unwise behaviors is pride, arrogance and the ego-driven life.

All the religions advise against pride, arrogance and the ego-driven life. But that sounds pretty wimpy in the context of “The American Way” doesn’t it? What is wrong with me living a good life if I am not hurting anyone else?

I think that question answers itself. Pride, arrogance and the ego-driven life define our unexamined belief that our lives are nobody else’s business; that we are not hurting anyone else; and that we as individuals are more important than the community, the ecosystem, the government — more important than everything else.

The reality is otherwise. If I may introduce the wisdom of science into the discussion, the two most important things we know about the creation are:

1. All of the creation functions by natural laws, and all the natural laws relate to balance. All the different parts of the creation must stay in balance with each other or something will happen to bring them back to balance. All of nature is set up to maintain the balance of nature. Those parts of nature (things like the law of gravity, for example, or the nature of time) are not things we can not change or stop. We are not God; we are only “me.”

2. Everything in the creation does affect everything else, in one way or another, because the whole shebang is a network of interacting processes and behaviors.

Surely these two realities are reason enough that the wisdom traditions of the ages have preached against pride, arrogance and the ego driven life. Clearly, if we want to not be ego-driven we must honor the needs of the community, the ecosystem, the whole creation, above our individual needs. And so we try to do this, but we nevertheless often get the vague feeling that the world is worse because we are here — like we should be able to change something about Haiti, for example, but we can’t. And we feel bad.

Of course we feel bad. It is a human tragedy. If we didn’t feel bad there would be something inhuman about us. Still, nobody wants the world to be worse because she lived here, and that makes us ask — what can we do that will make the world a better place because we lived here? My answer to that question is very clear. We should not to do the same behaviors that caused the problems in the first place. If we want to avoid an even bigger tragedy for the future, then our prime directive must be to find a better way than what we did in the past, but we certainly should NOT do more of what caused the problem in the first place.

The tragedy of our times, as I see it, is the enormous amount of compassion that is being poured into doing more and yet more of the behaviors that are the very cause of the problems that they are trying to fix — rather than buckling down to the more difficult task of fixing the root cause of the problems. And the tragedy is compounded by the fact that we do understand what caused these problems and we do have the technologies with which to address them. Our biggest challenge is not to figure out the cause, but to come up with a solution, and we aren’t even trying to talk about that.

So what can I do?

1. The first thing we should do is recognize that we can not personally understand all of the wisdom of all of the creation. Therefore, we should question what we believe, if what I believe actually is the best thing for the community, the ecosystem and the whole creation. Even if my belief is based upon a quotation from the Bible. Probably someone else can find an opposing quote. I believe is a position of pride, and the Bible does not promote pride. Even if we love our beliefs and they define the world for us. All the more reason to question them.

2. The second thing is to do this questioning positively, that is, in a way that will lead to changes that are good for the community, the ecosystem and the creation as it continues through time. Four steps in that process are:

a. Realize that you are not responsible for the behaviors of other people in past times. The problems of Haiti are a combination of the past behaviors of other people and the natural processes of the earth. There is nothing anyone can do to change the past behaviors of other people, or of our selves for that matter, or the natural processes of the earth. The best we can do about past behaviors and natural processes is to learn from them, provide compassionate support for the victims, and dedicate ourselves now to behaviors that do not contribute to similar events in the future.

b. Recognize that our own responsibility relates to what we are doing right now. Our responsibility now is to figure out the bottom-line root causes of these disasters so that we can behave in a more helpful way. This can not be done by individual people because nobody knows enough — it requires a community of wisdoms, working together. But it must be an inclusive community, not one that is hand-picked to our personal belief system.

c. We must learn to listen together — REALLY listen to all the sources of wisdom, check them against our own wisdom traditions to see if they make sense. If they don’t seem to make sense and they do seem to be important, then discuss them with someone who is in the OTHER wisdom tradition that doesn’t make sense to us. Of course, we must choose someone who will also listen, so that we all together can make sense of — whatever seems to be contradictory.
Learn to know the difference between opinions and facts.
Understand that debates are really a form of ego confrontation, not problem solving. There is no such thing as a problem with only two answers; therefore real problem solving tries to find all the answers to every problem. That requires discussion, not debate. Debate is designed to promote ego and pride, and to sell something without talking about all the relevant facts.

d. Recognize there is no such thing as “empowerment,” outside of politics, and me-ism is neither our constitutional right, nor is it self-affirming. The only power that we control is our own behavior as we respond to whatever is happening in this moment of time, and as we plan our behaviors for the future. The most self-affirming thing that we can possibly do is help to create a better community, ecosystem, etc., for our tribe.

3. The third thing we should do is to use our tested wisdom to inform our behaviors in each moment of time according to the best interests of the community, the ecosystem and the creation as a whole.

This is more than enough responsibility for most people, especially as we compassionately try to help the victims of yesterday’s mistakes. If we ONLY clean up the mistakes — and do not take any responsibility for positive change — then we are part of the problem and not part of the solution, because we are creating more victims for the future than we are helping today.

Slide Number Eight-The energy to sustain life comes from burning organic molecules

Burning with fire, as in your car – or
Metabolism is the basic miracle of sustaining life. It is the production and then the controlled burning of organic molecules to provide the energy for life.
Burning uses up organic molecules and oxygen, while it releases heat, carbon dioxide and water.

Texas State Board of Education

Over the past year or so, we folks in Texas have been carrying our share of the effort to provide quality textbooks for the nation. This is because Texas buys more textbooks (more of everything, right?) and so the publishers listen to what we want to have in the text books. It sometimes feels like they listen more to the State Board of Education than to the people who write the books. I mean the scientist who writes the book about science — not the editors who change what he wrote.

An upcoming article in the New York Times explains this odd situation rather well. Our State Board spent most of last year in an effort to determine whether or not we would teach religious creationism in our K-12 science classes. I recommend you read this article, no matter where is your school system, because our State Board has a big effect on what will or more likely what will not be in your textbooks. Real science? Or not?

Our responsibility to education is to elect members of the school board who are more dedicated to effective teaching than to the promotion of personal religious bias. If we want to be and train effective parents, voters, citizens, we need learn how to use both science and the wisdom disciplines, each in its proper place, so that we can get the maximum benefits from both. Our students will not be prepared for the world we are leaving them if we fail to teach them how to use the scientific method, or if we muddy up that teaching by introducing a different skill set that should be taught in the philosophy classroom. The same principle is true of other disciplines.

Below are the two candidates most closely involved with the current school board election (yes we elect them, no qualifications required). On the left is Mr. McLeroy, on the right Mr. Ratliff, the back on the far right is Teddy. This was taken during the debate at KEOS, Bryan, Texas. The debate will be uploaded to the KEOS web site ASAP.

The Seventh Slide

Energy is distributed all throughout the ecosystem in food. That is, organic molecules such as proteins, lipids, nucleic acids and carbohydrates. By organisms eating other organisms.